Thursday, September 4, 2014

Real Life Experiences with Tele-Health

The purpose of this article is to provide examples of innovation in action and to encourage the health industry to try new ideas!  

A recent PWC health industry report (HealthCast: Global Best Practices in Bending the Cost Curve) identifies a number of themes with associated innovation hotspots for health organisations to focus on for performance improvement.  The themes are generally similar to what we see coming up time and time again in good industry reports but there are a couple of interesting ideas in there:
  1. Leadership
  2. Strategic partnership models
  3. Integrated care
  4. Care anywhere through technology development
  5. Data analytics and measurement
  6. Process improvement in hospitals
  7. Caring for an aging population
  8. Precision medicine through research developments (e.g. genetics)
  9. Bioclusters
Whilst I do not have any direct experience with bioclusters, or genetic medicine advancements.  Its good to be able to say that I have experience in a number of these areas and also that my workplace, which is an insurance health services and occupational health provider, UHG is actively innovative in a number of these areas.

I believe that any innovation that supports improved productivity is useful and, due to its pervading effect on all aspects of business, I have a strong person interest in leadership and leadership systems that encourage and support collaborative workstyles and productivity improvement through increased engagement.  But this article will focus on point four involving 'Care anywhere'.

The PWC report explains Whether in the hands of individuals or institutions, technology frees patients to be treated anywhere, at any time, by a much broader array of providers. Consequently business leaders are embracing new models, such as mobile health (mHealth) and mobile applications.

So what are we doing in practice at UHG?  Well the UHG vision is 'connecting  business and healthcare' and our specialty is probably telephone based support services.  UHG is good at 'Tele-health'.  UHGs biggest innovation in the occupational health space is its telephone based medical advisory line.  It offers corporate clients with people and offices spread all over Australia a 24/7, telephone based triage service for injuries or biological exposure.  A good example of success is how we recently assisted a client during recent outbreaks of measles and swine flu.

The service provides direct access to skilled allied health professionals who triage calls, who can connect callers directly to occupational health specialist doctors over the phone, proactively book appointments within local clinics, and follow up with callers to proactively manage cases over a 3 day period.  Its an effective service that helps organisations reduce lost times injuries and it is a telehealth model that has potential application in the wider health industry.

This is only one of a wide range of services we provide to be able to provide health services to populations spread far and wide.  Another mobile health assessment program which provides onsite bi-annual health assessments for around 2500 emergency workers across Victoria is supported by a Melbourne based 'program manager' and online clinical case management software.  This allows for any follow up clinical issues to be managed centrally, records to be sent and recieved securely if required post appointment, and if required for telephone based follow up to be provided by an occupational physician.

So in short, UHG has the experience and strong evidence to show that telehealth can work.  The purpose of this article has been to provide some real life examples of innovation in action and to encourage health administrators to try new things!  I hope its been useful.  


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